No convention is a good convention without somebody like Yanick Paquette in attendance. Artists like Yanick, who is just coming off the release of the highly-anticipated Wonder Woman: Earth One, are extremely easy to talk to and completely honest about their views on the industry. Not only was Yanick friendly and knowledgable, but he had so much insight about comic books and the portrayal of Wonder Woman that his answers blew us away. Check out our full interview with Yanick as he discusses the intricacies of WW:EO, leftovers of Batman Inc, and his thoughts on writer Grant Morrison.
Hush Comics: First off, congratulations on the release of Wonder Woman: Earth One. How does it feel to finally see it come out?
Yanick Paquette: Yeah, it’s been a long time. Actually, as a reflection on my time making the book, it was a personal experience, almost a scientific one. As I tried to combine having a normal life and drawing comics at the same time, I found out that it doesn’t quite work out. It took 1.5-2 years to draw Wonder Woman, which is way too long – like 5 pages per month or something – and when I was done with it, I spent the summer trying to get it out of my system, doing nothing except a few covers for DC. Around December, Scott Snyder asked me to do a Batman issue (#49). It was 25-26 pages, but I had a month to do it and I was kind of scared, thinking I was broken, that five pages per month was my speed now.
I made the deadline, and what it revealed is that I was insecure at the time, and it forced me to go into survival mode and produce a lot of pages. While Wonder Woman would allow me to travel and do other things, stop and start again, go to a convention somewhere, I discovered that if I had imposed myself the kind of schedule [on WW:EO] that I had on Batman #49, I could have finished the book in a few condensed months. All that learning will be applied to the next volumes, and with a little luck, I will put myself “in trouble” for a few months at a time and do a lot of pages. Not the entire year, though. If I do that all year round, I will probably die before the end of it.
HC: No hard feelings, there; Wonder Woman: Earth One was well worth the wait. We noticed the meticulousness of the art with all the different cover art options in the back of the book. With so many takes on it, why do you feel you picked the right cover art?
YP: I was happy with it. Grant Morrison was aiming for some type of reaction. Honestly, when we first discussed the WW project, we wanted to avoid playing it safe with Wonder Woman. They’ll choose a path of warrior princess, and this is sort of a safe bet. And Grant was like “Yeah! Let’s get back to the 40s and bring back eroticism and bondage. This was probably the most dangerous, slippery slope path we could choose, but probably the mot interesting also because this is Wonder Woman’s origin. It’s been largely forgotten, and the cover art reflections some of those ambitions. Yet, we wanted to show that she is proud, and even though she is in chains, you discover that she is in chains because of her own people. She’s not hopeless; she’s playing by the rules for people.
Wonder Woman was created as a counterpoint to the “manly man” superhero battles of Superman, Batman, and all the others at the time. She had something closer to an Alice in Wonderland fantastical weird adventures. As DC tries to make Wonder Woman more relevant, in contrast with Superman and Batman, they somehow try to tap into the more “masculine” part of her personality, make her a barbarian and a warrior. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with making her physically strong as a character, but I feel that it goes against the grain of the intention of Wonder Woman as a character. If you read into it and think “Oh, to fit into a superhero world, she must be more ‘manly,’ you can. We tried to avoid any physical conflict, and she’s solving Earth One problems without resorting to fistfights.
HC: WW:EO was almost completely digitally done. Was going digital a decision specific to the book? Why was the singular panel that was done by hand completed this way?
YP: First off, I am a terrible inker, so that’s why the book was done digitally. Digital pencils are very black and white purely, so they sort of look like ink anyway, and everybody seemed pleased with it, so I figured that maybe I could pretend like I was inking, too. For WW:EO, because I wanted everything to be super slick, I worked with Manga Studio, which gave me that control and quality of inks – things I just can’t do in real life (Swamp Thing was also done completely digitally).
For that page, digital just didn’t quite work, and I just couldn’t quite fix it, so I figured I would go back to pencils to get it right. The light sources and the way her black hair interacts with the very complex trees… there were just a whole bunch of things that didn’t quite work. It became the only two pages of the entire book, including the cover that actually exist, and it’s gone now [sold on eBay].
HC: One of the biggest redesigns in Wonder Woman: Earth One is her invisible jet. What is the inspiration for this?
YP: Well, for the jet and the entire culture of Wonder Woman, I wanted to start with the Greek culture and throw it 3000 years in the future to see what kind of inspiration the art and the chronography can have on those people. There’s nothing on the island but a lot of nature: seashells, birds, dolphins, etc. There was some sort of fluid elegance to seashells, almost like the female form. I gave it a little vaginal looking door, and when she brought Steve inside, I was like “Heh heh. Nobody will get it.” I’m alone in my little world.
It wasn’t something I did on the grand capacity of everything. I’ve done things in the past where Grant will look at my page in a very meticulous way and see everything. This is his mutant power, by the way; he sees everything. He’s a pattern recognition monster. If you look at all his work, take Batman, Batman‘s story is messy; Grant looked at it from above into this big chaos and figured out the pattern that united it all in his run. The best example of it is the huge poster of Multiversity. Everything is symmetrical. I mean you look at it and it’s like the wet dream of any fan. It’s like “Oh my God, I’ve invested my life into DC and this makes total sense!”
HC: You have some of the most intricate panel work of any artist in the industry. What is your inspiration for drawing panels like that?
YP: I love the design. I love doing the design part of it, but more importantly, I feel that now that movies can capture the special effects that we can do, comics as an art form need to exploit the stuff that only we can do and no other medium can. There are things like the panel design that only we can do in a book the same way there are things in a movie that you can’t do in a play. These elements are very rarely explored and that’s a problem. A lot of comic books kind of look like storyboards that could be shot straight into a TV show. You could probably do a movie out of the Swamp Thing run I did with Scott [Snyder], but you will miss a lot of the interesting aspects of the book because we are exploiting comic books as an art form.
Panel borders is one of those things. Rhythm is another. If you look at Watchmen, the superposition of information in every single panel shows stack after stack of information, yet you know that it is just one moment in time; it’s like a chord of multiple notes. In comics, the understanding of control of time is something no other medium can do. If we don’t exploit these aspects, it will become more difficult to justify why we are doing comic books now. Jack Kirby would have huge double splash pages of heroes fighting huge monsters. There was no way any movies would touch that with a pole, so it was justified.
HC: One of our favorite minor characters in the book is Etta Candy. With the way you love to incorporate real life muses in your book, we couldn’t help but think this was based off Rebel Wilson. Any truth to that?
YP: No! Everybody says that. I don’t even know who that is. The internet is convinced of this and I have no idea who she is. Etta is based off Beth Ditto, lead singer of Gossip, check it out! Etta has this huge persona as kind of this punk rock lesbian and I figured that this is the kind of energy I need to inject for Beth to be this very strong character. Actually, I’m happy that you like her. There has been some controversy of people not liking the character, where the question is raised “Are we fat-shaming our characters?”
The Amazons, who are perfect in every sense physically, are flawed in terms of their judgment after being excluded from the world for so long. They have all been living up to this impossible Utopian standard, and as Etta comes to the island, the Amazonians think she is deformed and sick. They are really hard on Etta, but she stands proud and it’s not Wonder Woman who is coming to the defense of this bigger woman. She’s herself, saying “No, I’m proud of who I am and f*ck you.” So, yes there is fat-shaming out there and judgment on the female form. For guys too now, by the way. All the superhero movies now, you have that shot where the guy has to take his shirt off and it’s impossible to live up to. I know this has an impact on the younger generation, making them feel inadequate. Girls have been dealing with this forever, but now it’s coming to younger dudes, too.
When Wonder Woman goes to the real world and meets real people, I went out of my way to show the most beautiful diversity I could. I used the most unconventionally beautiful friends that I have for photo reference. Some of them are super tall, or short, or have a bit of weight, but they’re all sensual and alive. There was a bit of criticism of choosing impossible beauties, that I must be male-gazing all the time.
HC: Your foreword in Wonder Woman: Earth One gives us some insight to your upbringing. How is that feminist upbringing reflected in your portrayal of Themyscira?
YP: A lot of it is subconscious, I think. My dad was gay. I’m French Canadian. I’ve grown up in the most liberal crazy place in North America. I mean, look at our Prime Minister. That’s what makes it so hard to receive critique about it. Grant and I wanted to bring back some of the sensuality of early 40s Wonder Woman. There’s nothing wrong with sensuality to me; sexuality isn’t a dangerous thing to talk about, but because we’re both guys, there’s a lot of skepticism about where we are coming from.
HC: Let’s talk about Rebirth. DC is going through some major reconstruction right now. How do you feel that’s going so far?
YP: Honestly, I have no idea what the other creators are doing. I haven’t read the Rebirth [#1] book. I’ve done the Nightwing: Rebirth #1 book, but it’s only 20-22 pages. I went for a much stealthier, elegant style, but I do not know how he will be portrayed in his solo book. I wish them well, but I’m going back to the Wonder Woman: Earth One world. Like on the first volume, it sort of disconnects me from what is going on with the rest of DC. I’ll be doing a lot of variant covers, for Batgirl and The Birds of Prey, I’ll be doing two covers a month for Justice League, and a bunch of Batfamily covers this month (Batman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Harley Quinn variant).
HC: Do you feel doing cover art could be how you are known in the industry?
YP: Yes and no. I really like the interior art and the storytelling aspect. There is so much more content than you get with a cover. I do interior art because I have something to say. WW:EO had some ideals to explore in terms of sexuality and feminism and it makes the book worth doing. With the cover, it’s limited. It’s just graphic design, but it’s fun to do and it pays well. Especially as I embark on WW:EO Volumes 2 & 3, it will give me some presence.
HC: We recently saw a Batman-esque Mayan artifcact that made us think of another inspiration for a Batman Inc character. Is that a book you would ever explore doing again?
YP: Grant had that plan, and Batman Inc was the last chapter if his grandiose saga. We published an Absolute volume of Batman Inc, so we will probably not explore it again. When I was doing Batman Inc, the idea was to reach out to other cultures, respecting other cultures – graphically, at least. For example, there is a panel when Batman goes to Argentina and in the basement, there are syringes everywhere; it’s like a hellhole in there with broken beer bottles. The logo on that beer bottle is an accurate representation of a micro-brewey in Argentina, and people in Argentina still flip out when they see Batman in the basement next to a bottle of Quilmes. It gives them the idea that culturally, they are respected. Same idea when Batman goes to Tokyo, the panels are filled with inside jokes; it’s just for them.
I’m not from Paris, but I’ve been there many times and I remember when the X-Men would come to Paris, the Eiffel Tower would be in most of the background. And I could cringe and say “ehhh, Americans…” I figured that since Batman would come out of his shell and leave Gotham, the outside world would be the hero and Batman would be the guest in those places. I mean, it’s fun for the people of Shinjuku to say “Oh, that’s the corner of This and This, and Batman was there!” Same for us. People who learned about Paris through X-Men are missing an opportunity to really travel there in their minds.
HC: Are there any other cultures you would have liked to explore for a Batman Inc. character?
YP: Oh yeah. For my last moment of Batman Inc., we went to Africa. I was really looking forward to doing some designs for an African Batman. I actually did a design for an African Batman based on some complex traditional African masks, but Grant needed the African Batman to be a lot more tech-based with a flying machine, so that’s what we went with.
HC: What can we expect to see more of in the upcoming Wonder Woman: Earth One storyline?
YP: Wonder Woman is originally created as a weapon against man. Hippolyta took the seed of Hercules, who is very God-like, and engineered a weapon in Diana. That weapon turned out to be a creature of love, and slowly the idea of sending her as a tool of vengeance didn’t make any sense anymore. Hippolyta is eventually going to send Diana into man’s world, but as a bridge to reconciliation. This is where the story ends and where the next volumes will pick up.